Redemption Falls : Review Extracts  

The language is lyrical, hypnotic and beautiful…If you were one of those mesmerised by Star of the Sea, you will be entranced again by Redemption Falls.
Mike Cooper, Waterstones Book Quarterly, April 2007.

A profound tale of war and forgiveness.
Publishing News, April 2007.

He brings to life historical characters so real that they practically bleed onto the page.
Harper’s Bazaar, April 2007

FOLLOWING on from his best-selling Star Of Sea, O’Connor has packed his new novel with descendants from his last, and set them against the backdrop of the end of the American Civil War. Huge in scope with great historical detail, this is a tale of war and forgiveness, love and strangers.
Henry Sutton, Daily Mirror, 27 April 2007

Amid the chaos of the last gasp of the American Civil War, the story unfolds courtesy of a fistful of narrators, a raucous succession of poems and ballads, and a roller-coaster series of literary forms, including transcriptions of recorded interviews, historical documents, letters, poster-bills, even paintings…. As the pages turn, the reader cannot but be dazzled by the book’s vast cast of characters, enormous historical canvas and ambitious structure.
Arminta Wallace, Irish Times, 28 April 2007.

A remarkable book…hypnotically effective…O’Connor has extraordinary visual gifts. Chapter after chapter, set-piece after set-piece, Redemption Falls captures the eye and provokes the imagination…Redemption Falls is Gone with the Wind rewritten by a Dublin-born apprentice to Charles Dickens…He does America in different voices to superb effect….There’s a blockbuster movie in Redemption Falls…It’s sensational.
Brian Lynch, Irish Independent, 28 April 2007.

A master storyteller….An enthralling sequel to Star of the Sea...Multi-layered, with the story told by several voices and including letters, ballads, poetry and even Wanted posters, that all form a vivid mosaic of a vast country driven wild by War.
John Spain, Irish Independent, 28 April 2007.

A grand polyphonous canvas that recalls the form of Star of the Sea, yet it is resolutely different in tone and subject matter…There are moments of sustained brilliance which in psychological truth and realism make Daniel Defoe look like a literary amateur…He perfected his craft with Star of the Sea but has taken it a step further with Redemption Falls…A satisfying work of real magnitude and intensity.
Padraig Kenny, Sunday Tribune, 29 April 2007.

Compelling characters and a dizzying narrative.
Mick Heaney, Sunday Times, 29 April 2007

This hugely ambitious novel…roams like a camera across the broken landscape of the southern states.
Aisling Foster, The Times, 28 April 2007

A superb novel…Redemption Falls is pure gold. … The novel pulses with life amidst so much destruction and so many deaths. Ultimately, however, there is atonement, and the discharge of perhaps the biggest burden of all, as the novel’s brilliant denouement makes clear. This book cements O’Connor’s reputation as a novelist of the highest order. The quality of the writing is coruscating.
Barclay McBain, The Glasgow Herald, 28 April 2007

O’Connor’s terrific new novel evolves out of his bestseller Star of the Sea…Reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s nihilistic westerns, O’Connor’s prose gradually coheres into an epic narrative…Redemption Falls maps out the terrible compromises of love, loyalty and courage on the lawless margins of civilisation.
James Urquhart, Financial Times, ‘Page Turners’, 29 April 2007

A fantastic book.
Ryan Tubridy, RTE Radio, 30 April 2007

A rich sprawling narrative …Joseph O’Connor’s sequel to his acclaimed Star of the Sea is packed with substance and drama.
Paula Shields, Irish Examiner, 1 May 2007

Joseph O'Connor's magnificent new novel Redemption Falls…is as richly digressive a narrative as Ulysses or Finnegans Wake…full of hybridity and miscegenation, mixed tongues and cross-bred identities. Jeremiah O'Moody's accent is a blend of Louisiana twang and Irish brogue, and the novel itself brims with a Babel of idioms, from African-American to high-class Manhattan. It is a gloriously polyphonic work, full of overlapping voices and clashing dialects… Redemption Falls is a major work of modern fiction from an astonishingly accomplished writer.
Terry Eagleton, The Guardian, 5 May 2007

A superb artistic achievement, worthy of comparison with Toni Morrison's Beloved. This book consolidates and deepens O'Connor's stature as a major novelist.
Declan Kiberd, The Irish Times, 5 May 2007

THIS BIG and ambitious novel could only come from the author of Star of the Sea. It has the same remarkable qualities: an epic treatment set against a backdrop of painful history, told through brilliantly realised voices and idioms in a pastiche of fictionalised documentary sources, driven by a supercharged narrative pulsing with energy, musical cadence and original imagery. Joseph O'Connor confirms his mastery of this form. He writes like a throwback to Defoe or Dickens, accessible to a mass readership because he excels in the craft of storytelling, with a compulsion to ambush a popular imagination sandbagged by pap, cliché and lies. His status as both an international best-selling star and a serious contender for the highest literary awards thoroughly deserves to be amplified by Redemption Falls.
John Linklater, Sunday Herald, 6 May

Powerful…An irresistible read.
Lucille Redmond, Evening Herald, 7 May

A remarkable saga, a tale of love and sacrifice
Mark Coles, BBC World Service, 8 May

A heart-wrenching intimacy…O’Connor is a master of the temporal dissolve; linear history recedes before a kind of nihilistic immediacy throughout the book, agile intertextual references leap ahead or stagger back, and temporal logic implodes when a sentences rushes headlong into prophecy. Can ‘the cold and beautiful world’ be ‘redeemed by the sacrament of description?’ Most assuredly. Redemption Falls is trauma incarnate, but is effect is compassionate and numinous.
Karen Luscombe, TLS, 11 May

Will almost certainly enhance his already starry reputation…Its 450 gripping pages ripple with energy….The ending packs one of literature's most daring and brilliant shocks - the sort that make you want to begin again from page one with redoubled relish.
Tom Adair, The Scotsman, 12 May 2007

Remarkable prose and storytelling skills....A major novel of the Irish diaspora, a triumph.
Nicole Pepinster Greene, The Tablet, 12 May 2007

O’Connor’s depiction of the flawed and all-too-human O’Keeffe is masterful.
Jennifer O’Connell, The Sunday Business Post, 13 May 2007

O’Connor’s take on nineteenth century America is stunning in the sweep of its ambition, in the sheer scope of its canvas and in the chameleon linguistic ventriloquism brought into play by its myriad narrators and the layered styles of its narration….A piece of virtuoso writing, a tour-de-force….James O’Keeffe is one of the most truly complex and memorable characters in modern Irish fiction. Redemption Falls is a novel of vaulting ambition, managing to work on a kaleidoscopic canvas while still evoking in minute detail the flavours of that volatile period. O’Connor’s finest work to date, this is a novel with an impact that few readers will easily shed.
Dermot Bolger, The Sunday Independent, 13 May 2007

It is impossible not to get lost in the landscape of this novel, this magnificent octopus which stretches its tentacles back into the past, gathering a wild group of characters, glancing quickly from one to the other and allowing the kind of equality between voices – men and women, masters and slaves, black and white – that wars like the Civil War were fought over. Very few novels suggest that their author is astonished on every page. Redemption Falls is one. Make no mistake, the writer of a historical novel can be just as experimental, challenging and contemporary as any of the supposedly clever but all-too-disposable zeitgeist tomes of the Granta Under-40 types. A novel like this stands or falls on simple criteria – is the story so powerful the reader loses himself in it, abandons his duties in order to discover what happens next? The answer is a resounding yes.

A linguistic triumph….O’Connor has not only finally found his own distinctive voice but is exhilarated by its freedoms. Kazuo Ishiguro has said novelists produce their major achievements in a concentrated period of their lives, from their mid-thirties to late forties. Redemption Falls is just such an achievement. The words ‘A Masterpiece’ are too often bandied around in reviews, but they should be this novel’s subtitle.
John Boyne, The Sunday Tribune, 13 May 2007

Another winner….O’Connor unravels a magnificent tale
City A.M, 17 May 2007

A story immersed in historical context and built on devastating authenticity
Kim Bunce, The Observer, 20 May 2007

Language richer than a Victorian plum pudding…An extraordinary mosaic of a novel in which the complete picture is made up from vivid descriptive passages, journal entries, ballads, verses, court testimony and cross examinations…Powerful and impressive, the narrative has the ring of truth.
Peter Burton, The Daily Express, 24 May 2007

O’Connor’s novel has a palpable narrative texture and vigour…Truly astonishing; it is something of a challenge to find a page where the power of the writing does not take the breath away.

There have been many fine fictions on the conflict between the states, among them Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Daniel Woodrell’s Woe to Live On and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. None of these has been written by an Irishman, of course, or lent such a singular voice – or miscellany of voices – to the immigrant experience. With another volume promised, O’Connor is on course to complete a quite remarkable historical trilogy.
Trevor Lewis, The Sunday Times, 27 May 2007

Broad and ambitious, Redemption Falls is a worthy successor to O'Connor's Star of the Sea. Weaving multiple strands of narrative, it provides an intimate account of individuals struggling to make sense of themselves and of rapidly changing times. The subjective nature of truth is a central theme, and the same events viewed through different eyes produce a kaleidoscopic effect. Patched together with letters, eyewitness accounts, press reports, ballads and poems, the novel is constantly shifting perspective, evolving into a disquisition on the art of storytelling itself. This is no 'bookstory ... straight and true ... life is not like that, not ... truly capable of narration in one tense'. It is a tale that continues long after most of the protagonists are dead and binds the past indelibly to the present and future.

Beautifully written, Redemption Falls is a love story and a 'tale of war'. Evoking the rumbustious essence of 1860s America, O'Connor also explores the imponderables of human existence. Life is an enigma, 'an appearance not comprehended', yet in spite of this, acts of huge personal sacrifice, idealism and bravery are committed. Beset though it may be with the bloody confusions of history, at the heart of O'Connor's masterful epic lies a universal hope for something better.
Anna Scott, The Observer, 27 May 2007

An enormous undertaking, not only in it its sheer size but also its narrative sweep…With its innovative structure – letters, doodles, ballads and posters are all put to use in the text – the novel manages to strike the reader as a huge literary achievement, but not at the expense of the story.
Michelle Stanistreet, The Sunday Express, 3 June 2007

A sweeping, beautifully written epic from the acclaimed author of Star of the Sea, this is a deeply sensitive and moving tale of Irish immigrants to America, who, having fled the famine ravaging their homeland, must struggle to find a place in the world in the aftermath of America’s devastating Civil War. It is 1865, and sixteen-year-old Eliza Duane Mooney sets out on an extraordinary adventure, walking west across the country from her home in Louisiana. She is searching for her brother Jeremiah, whom she has not seen for four years since he ran away to become a drummer boy in the Confederate army. The story of Eliza’s determination and of Jeremiah’s suffering is also the story of a country finding its feet after years of upheaval. Peopled by a captivating cast, from revolutionaries to poets to runaway slaves, this is a glorious panorama of conflict, bravery, and enduring love.
The Good Book Guide, June 2007 (unnamed reviewer)

A sweeping tale peopled by well-wrought characters which examines how reputations are made and unmade and how individuals make history before it is written. More than that, though, it’s about varmints and vigilantes, stagecoaches and moonshine, and it really brings the sights, sounds and stenches of the frontier to life.
Max Leonard, Time Out, 14 June 2007

In the year that Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea was published, I was on the judging panel for the Sunday Independent Book of the Year Competition. He was up against John McGahern and Anne Enright, amongst others, and McGahern won it, but I remember telling the assembly at the prize-giving that I could not find words to express my admiration for Joseph’s achievement in writing such a wonderful piece of work, and I meant it. Then Bob Geldof and Richard and Judy went to work and the book became the monster best-seller it deserved to be.

Well, if you thought THAT was good, wait till you get your hands on his new one Redemption Falls.  Amazing! Astonishing ! Awesome ! Superb!. Get the gist? I just had to talk to him on the phone and tell him it’s the best thing I’ve read in the past five years.  He was suitably modest and grateful for my taking the trouble, but I do so wish you’d read it and find it as riveting as I did. To have kept control over such a long and winding tale is a huge accomplishment and the writing is just class.
Gay Byrne, Sunday Independent, 24 June 2007

In this brother-against-brother story, transformed into Blue against Gray, O’Connor evokes a theme as old as Cain and Abel and tells his tale so lyrically that it is a pleasure to behold. This is a book that holds its own against such classics of Civil War fiction as Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" and Charles Frazier's "Cold Mountain."
Seattle Times

Authentic, intriguing….O'Connor takes bits and pieces of news accounts, diaries, ballads, and then expands, telling the rich story of his characters, ultimately weaving them together in a shimmering, if shattered, landscape.
Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi

Joseph O’Connor has written many acclaimed novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and such hilarious nonfiction works as “The Secret World of the Irish Male.” His latest novel, “Redemption Falls”, expands, in remarkably imaginative ways, themes of exile and endurance sounded in his previous historical drama, “Star of the Sea.” Set at the end of the Civil War and largely on the frontier, “Redemption Falls “ follows barefoot Eliza Mooney, who searches for her younger brother, and dazzling Lucia-Cruz McLelland, who endures marriage to the faded Irish hero General James O’Keeffe. Along the way, outlaws, freed slaves, and soldiers speak in their own vernacular, in ballads, but, above all, in voices as real as the brutal land that O’Connor creates.
Boston Globe.

A fascinating tableau of both the public and private lives of the Mountain Territory just after the Civil War...Walt Whitman is quoted: "the real war will never get in the books." O'Connor, however, succeeds better than most in creating the post-war struggle of America, exacerbated by racial tensions, enflamed by personal vendettas, and finally, driven by the need for justification. ..Even the bleakest war narrative includes moments of transcendence. O'Connor leaves his readers poised at just such a moment, looking back at the long shadow of war in the light of an act that ennobles this dark but compelling story .
New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Solidifies his reputation as one of Ireland’s finest contemporary writers… excellent book…. The multiple voices telling the story, the attention to historical detail, and characters with emotional depth make Redemption Falls a story that stays with, and maybe even haunts, the reader.
Knoxville Metro Pulse

Readers with a taste for inspired Joycean wordplay and narrative anarchy will pick it up in delight.
New York Times

[A] sprawling, dazzling new novel…But more important than O’Connor’s characters, plot or setting is his form. Redemption Falls is a dizzying collage of dialogue, posters, lyrics, dialects, court transcripts, footnotes even photographs. O’Connor is making an ambitious bid, here, to explore not just American history but the nature of history and narrative itself. …Does all this theory and experimentation make for compelling fiction?  Absolutely. …There is a gripping yarn here. The final 100 pages of Redemption Falls reads like a perfectly executed murder mystery -- which, in fact, it is. Readers of O’Connor’s last novel, Star of the Sea, should not be surprised by
the scope and ambition of his latest work….O’Connor has produced a magisterial portrait of 19th Century Irish America, reimagining both the harrowing journey to the New World as well as the war, bigotry and opportunity which greeted the victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger. The haunted history of the Civil War and the lush descriptions of harsh terrain obviously recall Faulkner….Redemption Falls should undoubtedly be seen as one of the most impressive and important novels of the year….O’Connor, the novelist as genealogist, makes great fiction out of what has left so many of us merely perplexed.
America magazine

A marvel. The novel that marks O’Connor’s arrival into the overcrowded field of great Irish writers.
Irish Echo, New York

Immersed in volatile times and told in ever-shifting perspectives, Redemption Falls is engrossing and satisfying….fantastic and well-constructed.
Irish Voice, New York, January 2, 2008


Redemption Falls deals with a crucial period in the history of Ireland and the United States. The story is told with extraordinary ingenuity, the tone a mixture of the playful and the grave, at times fast-moving, smart and very clever, and then full of beautiful writing and heart-breaking sequences. The cadences of the competing voices in the book combine to produce a dazzling narrative.
Colm Toibin, author of The Master. Winner of the 2006 Dublin Impac Literary Award and the 2006 San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year. March 2007

Redemption Falls is a gem.  It's a glorious book, enormous, virtuoso and brave.  Its scope is wide -- love, death, war, belonging -- and yet its gaze is intimate.  At its heart is the story of a woman who wants to return to the only country she has -- her family.  The language is at turns bawdy, ancient, poetic, grand and funny.  One can't dismiss the genius that's involved in being able to tell such necessary stories in a time of war and still be able to beat back all the cliches.  The minute I finished the book I wanted to start reading it all over again. 
Colum McCann, author of Dancer and Zoli, Irish Novel of the Year 2006.  March 2007

This book took my breath away. If you’re interested at all in the American Civil War, Irish participation in same, love, the expansion of the West, you’ll delight in this novel. It is panoramic, yet dense and delicious in detail. It is written gloriously, as if Mr O’Connor toiled at some mighty cathedral organ containing the whole of the English language with its Irish and American flavourings. This is a brave book and only a brave heart could have written it.
Frank Mc Court, author of Angela's Ashes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. March 2007.

A huge achievement, as deep as it is wide, this is a book like no other of these times  - a panorama of violence, vigour and tragic love set among people devastated by the American Civil War, brilliantly recounted in the multiple tones of their voices, writings and songs, and realised with an empathy both impressive and extraordinarily moving. 
Nuala O’Faolain, author of Are You Somebody? and The Story of Chicago May, winner of France’s Prix Femina Etranger, 2006. March 2007.

This is a great novel.  Cleverly crafted and beautifully written, Redemption Falls is fiction at its very best.
Roddy Doyle, May 2007



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